ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Tyler Wiseman had a pair of goals and added an assist to lead Canisius to a 5-3 upset of top-seeded Niagara in the first semifinal of the Atlantic Hockey tournament.
Canisius scored in the final minute of both the first and second periods, slowly taking momentum away from the No. 15 Purple Eagles.
2013 Atlantic Hockey Championship
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“It was scary because I thought their top line was very, very good,” said Canisius coach Dave Smith. “It took a full commitment for our team to be aware and react when they were out there.”
Niagara’s first line delivered the first goal of the contest at 3:26 of the first period when Giancarlo Iuorio took a feed from Ryan Murphy and slid the puck past Canisius goaltender Tony Capobianco.
Canisius answered at 10:33 of the first as Cody Freeman found some space at the far face-off circle and buried a feed from Patrick Sullivan.
The Golden Griffins took their first lead with 39 seconds left in the period. After a lengthy scrum in front of Chubak, who failed on several attempts to freeze the puck, Canisius defenseman Ben Danford moved down from the point, pulled the puck back to find some open space and then lifted it over the sprawled goaltender.
“That’s how we want to play and that was a huge goal for us,” said Smith. “Every goal you score gives you more confidence. We didn’t have that for a lot of the year, but now it’s come together.”
Niagara tied the game early in the second period that saw each team score twice.
Freshman Hugo Turcotte shoveled a second attempt past Capobianco to even things at 2-2.
Wiseman netted his first of the contest and Iuorio his second to keep things even, but it was Canisius again scoring late in the period to take a lead it would not relinquish.
On the power play, Duncan McKellar scored his third goal of the season, deflecting a pass from Wiseman past Chubak.
Wiseman tallied an insurance goal 1:58 into the third period.
Niagara double shifted the line of Iuorio, Murphy and Marc Zanette for most of the period, but was unable to cash in.
The Golden Griffins were outshot 44-29 in the contest with Capobianco coming up time and time again.
“Their goalie was their No. 1 star,” said Burkholder. “They’re on a roll right now. That’s been the story in Atlantic Hockey this season – great goaltending.
“We thought if we got 12-15 shots each period we’d be fine, but their guy kept kicking.”
“Our goaltender played the way he’s always played, which is consistent and great,” said Smith.
The win puts Canisius into the championship game for the first time. The Golden Griffins are the lowest seed to make the finals in the league’s 10-year history. The seventh-seeded Griffs extended their winning streak to seven games, currently the longest in Division I and longest in the school’s Division I era.
Niagara must now play a waiting game. Despite the loss, the Purple Eagles are still in the hunt for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
Canisius must win to get in, but the Golden Griffins look to have momentum on their side.
“We’ve been the underdogs, so this run we’ve been on has been pretty special,” said Wiseman. “To be one game away from the NCAAs is kind of surreal.”
“Right now, I feel like I’m a passenger here,” said Smith.”It’s a great ride.”